Sunday, November 13, 2005

Joseph Campbell and the three temptations in Bardo

In "The power of Myth" audiobook, Bill Moyers inteviews Joseph Campbell.
One fragment seemed very significant to me since it literally links to an important series of lessons in Kabbalah.

1. The personal Apocalyps.
One of the main lessons I got in my Kaballah lessons dealt with fear and death, or fear of death. The concept of world-wide Apocalypse as described in the book of Revelations can come in handy to try to visualize the idea of individualized fears if you consider a personal apocalypse.
My teacher meant by this expression the moment of passage from one plane of existance to another, either during lifetime or after decease. He saw a difference between the act of "deceasing" which describes the soul leaving the body and rigor mortis setting in, and the act of "dying", or as mentioned in the bible, "dying on the cross", which describes the necessary qualities for consciousness to reach out above the earthly plane. Which could happen during lifetime for a very few (the adepts: christ, buddha etc.). The essential qualities to obtain this consciousness upheaval are threefold:
- First you have accept to leave your costume - which means your physical body, the costume you're wearing on the stage of life. Well we're all going to, so it may as well be a choice we make. Trouble is both pleasure and pain chain us to our physical body (Malkuth). My teacher considered that ghosts are souls who don't want to realize their physical self is gone and have to dwell around waiting for reincarnation (or the insight that they have left the stage).
- Secondly you need to let go your ego (Yesod). This seems the most frightening part of "dying": you need to realize (= make real) that absolutely everything you thought you were, the idea you have of yourself, every quality, shortcoming, aspect of your character was just that: a character you played on the stage. A role. Which you once learned, performed, and now the curtain's down you have to leave forever. You are not who you think you are. My teacher used to show strange slides during his lessons and the slide accompanying this aspect of death was the scary, absolutely terrified face a woman screaming (I guess something from a Romero or Argento movie). Unchaining the dragon seems the most frightening experience in - or out of - a lifetime. It also points at accepting to become part of a greater entity (I'm not speaking of the Elohim on this relatively low level on Jacob's ladder), to dissolve the individual.
- Finally the most difficult bit is rather vague: you need to be prepared; both in the meaning as "to be drilled" in order to cope with it when it comes AND be able to accept it in all humility. In this most difficult aspect, the main bit is not wanting to ascend in the first place! Kinda like "tickle her without making her laugh", you need to be fully aware of the structure of the sefirotic tree and the possibilities but if you are driven by desire, especially the desire to ascend, your ego's again in control and not your heart (Tifereth). If you do ascend it will be because the necessity arises at that moment for you to do so, not because you will. BTW I don't see a contradiction with Crowley's teachings, I think his idea of 'Will' transcends the idea of individual will (but MIFOS, I dunno enough about Al to evaluate). By accepting this state of things, if and when consciousness arises it will automatically take its surroundings with it. True enlightment supposedly has an influence on the whole material world, which slowly climbs up the ladder as well. "And in doing that you save the world!" (Joseph Campbell about releasing the dragon).
The ultimate goal according to my teacher is this (I guess only kabbalists can get it so I'll whisper it): to bring back the last and lowest stone back to Ayin Sof.
I can go as far as I want into these concepts, but I choose to accept them as useful (dynamic) metaphors rather than literal (passive) beliefs.

2. Transcript of "the Hero's Adventure" part 4
The Buddha figure is like that of the Christ, of course 500 years earlier. You could match those 2 traditions right down the line, even to the characters of their apostles or their monks. Now there's a perfectly good hero deed formula represented here.
And he (Christ, B.) undergoes three temptations: the economic temptation, where the devil says "you look hungry young man, change the stones to bread". Jesus said "Man lives not by bread alone but every word from the mouth of god". Next we have the political temptation. He's taken to the top of a mountain and shown the nations of the world, and (Satan, B.) says "You can come to control all of these if you bow to me". And then, "Well, you're so spiritual, let's go up to the top of Herod's temple and see you cast yourself down, and god will bear you up and you even won't be bruised". So he (Christ, B.) "You shall not tempt the lord". These are the three temptations of Christ in the desert.
The Buddha also goes into the forest, has conferences with the leading gurus of the day and goes past them. He comes to the tree of illumination and goes through three temptations. They're not the same temptations but they are three temptations. And one is that of lust, another that of fear and another is that of duty, doing what you're told.
And then both of these men come back.

3. Conclusions.
Campbell shows very clearly how the three conditions necessary for spiritual ascend according to kabbalah (freedom from body - freedom from ego - acceptance-patience) play a key role in both the christian and buddhistic myth. Both figures function as metaphors for the consciousness ascending from the material world (Assiyah) through the paradise (Yetzirah) on its way to enter the kingdom of heavens (Jeruzalem in Malkuth of Beriah). The also show the correct insights to the three most important conditions for doing so.
In Christ's story, matter and body get symbolized by the desert stones (the lowest in the matter) as well as the bread (points to hunger, bodily functions, survivalist techniques). The ego is shown on top of the mountain, where archangel Satan tries to fool the self to rule over all its qualities (the nations), while actually this would tend to make the ego (Yesod) rule over the self (Tifereth). When asking to die in assurance of rebirth, the self finally needs to realize its time will come when necessary, not according to its own will. The 'death on the cross' by Christ consciousness in the bible is the moment when the time has come, and even and ascended consciousness start to doubt.
Let me point to the kabbalistic appraoch of evil, where true evil only resides in the kelippotic worlds, the lost kingdoms of Edom where what we call 'demons' reside, without any function in this world, in opposition to the personal Gehinnom, the fifth world below Assiyah which we call 'hell' and is an individual state in the consciousness where for some people it's necessary to stay trapped until they manage to climb up the Jacob's ladder again; as for what we call the 'devil' or Satan, the kabbalah mythos considers Samael as the highest ranking archangel (actually a Seraphim), who when Metatron took his place holding the book of fate, received a new mission as the tester, 'falling' down and climbing up all the levels continuously, testing consciousness on its ascend to be sure it's worth to pass through. Again necessity is the key word, not good nor evil.
In Buddha's story, after transcending the leading gurus, passing them by on his ascend, is tested threefold in a way which do seem similar to the above. While lust points obviously to the matter, fear I link to the concept of unchaining the dragon, the epithome of fear, which symbolizes the abandonment of the ego. The realization of duty points to acceptance, waiting patiently for further evolution.
Both metaphors for rised consciousness perform their necessary task, which means returning to the ego and the matter, but free'd from them, and then try to perform awakening and throw hints for others to take a similar path.

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